Our national debt surpassed $14.294 trillion today, breaking through the debt ceiling set forth by Congress. How America got to this point is crystallized in the Obama Administration’s own Fiscal Year 2012 budget. It was released just three months ago and, despite our country being knee deep in an enormous fiscal crisis, does not mention any meaningful entitlement reform at all. In fact, President Obama said at the time that it was not his place to offer a plan to bring down America’s debt: “…if you look at the history of how these deals get done, typically it’s not because there’s an Obama plan out there.”
A President has to lead, but when it comes to the national debt, President Obama has been MIA. Without any leadership from the White House the burden falls to Congress. Over a thousand people took Citizens United’s Facebook poll over the weekend, and an overwhelming majority believes that Congress will not have the courage to reform Medicare and Social Security this year. To bring down our debt, real reform of entitlement programs must be done. If not, the national debt will continue to spiral out of control making life that much more difficult for future generations.
The Treasury Department can still pay America’s creditors up until August 2nd, at that point if a deal on raising the debt ceiling is not reached in Congress then America will default on its obligations. There is still time for a deal to be reached, but that deal must include real cuts and reforms or we will be back at this same point again soon, only with higher debt. Enacting the cuts necessary to get us back on stable ground will be both painful and difficult. It will take a courageous coalition of Americans willing to do the right thing for our children and grandchildren; something President Obama has failed to do so far.
In March, I called on Congress to adopt a rule that would trigger a debt ceiling vote every time the debt climbs $100 billion. At the rate the federal government is spending money, these votes would have to be taken often. The reason to have the debt limit so low is to hold Congress and the Obama Administration’s feet to the fire when it comes to spending cuts. Congress has raised the debt ceiling 98 times since 1940, rendering the idea of a “debt limit” virtually useless. The ceiling is more like a goalpost that keeps getting moved because of the federal government’s reckless spending habits.
To give this new rule teeth, the vote should require a two-thirds super majority in Congress to continue to fund the government. With this rule in place, raising the debt ceiling would become extremely difficult and Congress would be forced to curb spending or face defaulting on our debt. Some may call this extreme, but when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, says, “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt,” extreme measures must be taken.
For decades, there was a culture of indulgence that led to many Americans looking the other way when it came to fiscal responsibility and our national debt. Citizens United Productions’ documentary Generation Zero explains how this selfishness helped lead to our current economic crisis. Thankfully, with the help of the Tea Party movement, Americans have finally awoken to our national debt crisis. In a Gallup Poll released last week, 47 percent of Americans want their Member of Congress to vote against the raising of the debt ceiling. Americans are realizing that the national debt, as it now stands, will have a devastating impact on their children and grandchildren’s standard of living and they are demanding that Washington take action now.